May 16, 2020

Industry 4.0: the urgency of data standardisation

Industry 4.0
data standardisation
4 min
Industry 4.0: the urgency of data standardisation
Industry 4.0: the gateway to the future

Sometimes presented as the new industrial revolution, Industry 4.0, primarily represents an advance in producti...

Industry 4.0: the gateway to the future

Sometimes presented as the new industrial revolution, Industry 4.0, primarily represents an advance in production means and practices. Characterised by interconnected machines and systems, it involves making production and supply chains smarter in order to improve efficiency in resource allocation and increase agility in production processes.

This transformation of manufacturing is accompanied by a modernisation of its tools, including CAD/CAM software (Computer-Aided Design and Manufacturing), MES (Manufacturing Execution Systems), PLM software (Product Lifecycle Management), and ERP software. Manufacturers have enhanced their information systems immensely to be able to monitor, automate, and secure their production chain. We are also witnessing the explosion of the Internet of Things (IoT), whose industrial applications keep growing.

All of these tools seem to be coming together today, in response to a growing need for openness, agility, and productivity. Whether physical or virtual, traditional boundaries and barriers on industrial enterprises are fading as markets open, omnichannel models emerge, stakeholders multiply, and global competition intensifies, gradually redefining the reaches of such companies. They can no longer be self-sustaining or operate in a closed circuit. They are in the middle of an ecosystem that encompasses customers, suppliers, and partners, with whom they must continuously and instantaneously communicate in order to streamline and accelerate supply chain production processes.

Moving toward sector-based platforms

Customers, for example, now demand customised products, but at the same price and with the same efficiency as those mass-produced. Industry 4.0 will be able to provide them with this, since production chains will be able to automatically configure themselves according to specific, individualised needs. This means increased interaction between logistics and production entities, which will have to be reliable and secure. This would ensure not only the safety and integrity of information systems, but also the compliance and performance of products and their delivery.

The challenge therefore lies in manufacturers’ ability to have total visibility across their entire ecosystem, at all levels. Only with such visibility in place can they prevent problems that may occur along their production chain and limit the number of errors, which are potentially increased by the growing complexity of the supply chain. Yet, too much information, not too little, is to blame for visibility problems today. Manufacturers must therefore learn to control and analyse this massive amount of data from across their entire ecosystem in order to make better, more strategic decisions and to manage alerts at appropriate times.

In the extended organisation, there are contractors who typically require their suppliers to comply with their trade protocols and standards via client-implemented platforms. But with Industry 4.0, such platforms will integrate with the entire ecosystem and decentralised entities, and will communicate directly with one another according to a subsidiary model. It is therefore vital that all stakeholders agree to a single exchange standard.

A necessary standardisation of data streams

Some sectors have already reached this conclusion and have developed sector-based exchange platforms. One such sector is the aerospace industry, whose European leaders launched the 'BoostAeroSpace' platform in 2011 to unify collaborative processes between the sector’s various players. The platform now has 1,500 partners, who enjoy logistics management and data exchange solutions designed specifically by and for their profession.

Although EDI allows for solid data structuring, this is not the case for vertical software (CAD/CAM, PLM, MES, etc.), which is not natively designed to communicate with one another or with millions of connected things. Communicating using APIs, in close cooperation with EDIs, is a good way to meet these new communication and horizontal integration requirements. Given the volume of data and the disparity of the systems involved, efficient circulation of data streams within these immense ecosystems (tools, machines, and production chains sometimes distributed over multiple geographical sites, logistics and or production entities, etc.) calls for standardisation. Establishing consortia representing the sector’s key stakeholders, for each ecosystem, is certainly a must.

It is essential to think about standardising data streams. Only through standardisation can the industry of the future develop and offer its full innovative potential. Europe is committed to helping its industrial production reach 20 percent of its GDP by 2020 (compared to 15 percent today). Industry 4.0 can certainly help achieve this, as long as  all European players will have the means to implement it, working constructively and promoting synergies between their ecosystems.

Antoine Rizk, VP Global Supply Chain Marketing at Axway


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May 12, 2021

Ultium Cells LLC/Li-Cycle: Sustainable Battery Manufacturing

2 min
Ultium Cells LLC and Li-Cycle join forces to expand recycling in North America, recycling up to 100% of the scrap materials in battery cell manufacturing

Ultium Cells LLC - a joint venture between General Motors and LG Energy Solutions - has announced its latest collaboration with Li-Cycle. Joining forces the two have set ambitions to expand recycling in North America, recycling up to 100% of the scrap materials in battery cell manufacturing


What is Ultium Cells LLC?

Announcing their partnership in December 2019, General Motors (GM) and LG Energy Solutions established Ultium Cells LLC with a mission to “ensure excellence of Battery Cell Manufacturing through implementation of best practices from each company to contribute [to the] expansion of a Zero Emission propulsion on a global scale.”

Who is Li-Cycle?

Founded in 2016, Li-Cycle leverages innovative solutions to address emerging and urgent challenges around the world.

As the use of Lithium-ion rechargeable batteries in automotive, industrial energy storage, and consumer electronic applications rises, Li-Cycle believes that “the world needs improved technology and supply chain innovations to better recycle these batteries, while also meeting the rapidly growing demand for critical and scarce battery-grade materials.”

Why are Ultium Cells LLC and Li-Cycle join forces?

By joining forces to expand the recycling of scrap materials in battery cell manufacturing in North America, the new recycling process will allow Ultium Cells LLC to recycle cobalt, nickel, lithium, graphite, copper, manganese and aluminum.

“95% of these materials can be used in the production of new batteries or for adjacent industries,” says GM, who explains that the new hydrometallurgical process emits 30% less greenhouse gases (GHGs) than traditional processes, minimising the environmental impact. Use of this process will begin later in the year (2021).

"Our combined efforts with Ultium Cells will be instrumental in redirecting battery manufacturing scrap from landfills and returning a substantial amount of valuable battery-grade materials back into the battery supply chain. This partnership is a critical step forward in advancing our proven lithium-ion resource recovery technology as a more sustainable alternative to mining, " said Ajay Kochhar, President, CEO and co-founder of Li-Cycle.

"GM's zero-waste initiative aims to divert more than 90% of its manufacturing waste from landfills and incineration globally by 2025. Now, we're going to work closely with Ultium Cells and Li-Cycle to help the industry get even better use out of the materials,” added Ken Morris, Vice President of Electric and Autonomous Vehicles, GM.

Since 2013, GM has recycled or reused 100% of the battery packs it has received from customers, with most current GM EVs repaired with refurbished packs.

"We strive to make more with less waste and energy expended. This is a crucial step in improving the sustainability of our components and manufacturing processes,” concluded Thomas Gallagher, Chief Operating Officer, Ultium Cells LLC.

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